NAPA, Calif. -- Jessamyn West, author of popular short stories and novels about Quakers set in her native Indiana including 'The Friendly Persuasion,' has died. She was 81.
Miss West, who died Wednesday night, turned to writing over four decades ago while bedridden during a battle with tuberculosis. She had been in poor health since suffering a stroke a year ago.
'The Friendly Persuasion,' published in 1945, was a group of stories about a Quaker family living on the border between North and South in the Civil War. The bestseller was her first book and was later made into a movie starring Gary Cooper and Anthony Perkins. The movie, with a popular theme song, was nominated for an Academy Award.
Although much of her fiction was set in her native Indiana, she lived most of her life in California and had resided in the Napa area for more than 40 years.
She was born Mary Jessamyn West in 1902 near North Vernon, Ind. The family moved to Southern California seven years later and the Indiana Miss West later created in short stories and novels was mostly the product of her imagination, working on the tales her mother and grandmother told her of farm life among Indiana Quakers.
She graduated from Whittier College as an English major in 1923, the year she married Harry Maxwell McPherson.
While doing graduate work at the University of California, she was stricken with TB and hospitalized in a sanatorium. Later she was released and in her words, 'sent home to die.'
She turned to writing during her fight against the disease and her first short story, '99.6' was published in 1939 while her husband was principal and coach at St. Helena High School. She and her husband then moved to Napa where McPherson served as school superintendent until his retirement.
Many of her stories dealt with Quakers, although she also wrote on other subjects.
'I seem to fall between two stools,' she once said. 'Those who like my stories about Quakers feel I should not write on other subjects and those who like my other stories tell me they are disinterested in stories about Quakers.'
Miss West, a distant relation of former President Richard M. Nixon, also wrote short story collections such as 'Cress Delahanty,' 'Crimson Ramblers of the World, Farewell,' 'Except for Me and Thee,' and 'Love, Death and the Ladies' Drill Team.'
Her novels included 'A Matter of Time,' Leafy Rivers,' 'South of the Angels,' 'The Witch Diggers' and 'Massacre at Fall Creek.'
Among her other works was 'To See the Dream' an account of her experiences in Hollywood during the filming of 'Friendly Persuasion.'
Besides her husband, she is survived by a brother, Merle, of Whittier, Calif.; a daughter, Mrs. Alan Cash of Rodeo, Calif., and two grandchildren.